Expert Exemption

January 18th, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Decisions. Decisions.

They’re the essence of reporting and writing a story. Many decisions are relatively unimportant, but not so the reporter’s choice of an “expert” or “experts” to add information, context or opinion.

So when Dan Boyd enlisted the aid of Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation for his solid piece on public employee retirement options (Albuquerque Journal, Jan. 8), I took notice.

Before tackling Boyd’s story, can we stipulate, counselor, that the Journal considers public employee pensions the Enemy, right up there with unions, progressive taxation, government and al Qaeda?

Of course we can, judging from the frequency and prominence of Journal stories on the subject. (Maybe we can also agree that skullduggery in private sector pensions is nobody’s business, given that the Journal rarely mentions them, never investigates them and has ignored Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen Schultz’s 2011 exposé, “Retirement Heist”.)

But back to Boyd’s piece – it’s his usual good, fair job, conveying the complexity of retirement plans for public employees who double as state lawmakers, with comments from legislators on both sides of the aisle.

The only questionable element (for which I doubt Boyd was responsible) is Gessing’s role as the only non-legislator quoted.

There’s an argument for consulting him, of course – the president of an organization for which “public” is a dirty word can be depended upon to know the subject and have an opinion thereon.

But why use nobody else?

Why not seek out a public pension expert from ERB, ERISA or the National Public Pension Coalition (unions)? Why not a legal or university faculty specialist?

Given Gessing’s consistent advocacy of far-right political economics, a professional editor might have suggested that. Fairness, you know. Ah, but we’re talking about the Journal, aren’t we?

This newspaper exempts Gessing and the Rio Grande Foundation from normal journalistic scrutiny.

And it publishes his views so often he should be on retainer.

Gessing writes Op Ed columns, letters to the editor and Business Outlook pieces. He’s been profiled in Outlook, too. In fact, as my colleague Denise Tessier noted Nov. 7, he’s even managed to drive right into the Road Warrior column!

(I expect him to make “Fetch” any day now, arguing that leashes infringe on the Constitutional rights of dogs to dump anywhere.)

Seriously, happenstance is not why Gessing appears (Zelig-like) all over the Journal; management casts him in those roles.

Yesterday, it lionized Pete Domenici when the cause was subsidizing corporations. Today the Journal features Gessing in its effort to move libertarianism from “the fringes to a position of prominence in a major party.” (The quote is from Charles Krauthammer’s column on Ron Paul in the Jan. 16 Journal.)

That is what, after weighing the evidence, I’ve decided – the Journal uses its “news” columns to promote laissez-faire.

You may decide otherwise, of course.

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